Do you remember where you were on November 22, 1963, if you were even born yet? I remember exactly where I was, on the air at KSTT radio in Davenport, Iowa. The studio door flew open and the news director, Bob Moore came in. “Kennedy’s been shot,” he said, “join the network, right now. They’re reporting live from Dallas.” One by one, KSTT staff members came into the studio and just stood, heads down, listening to ABC Radio. I remember as if it were a week ago. That’s how it is with certain calamitous events. We all have those memories. Here are some of mine.
July 26, 1956 – A Swedish ocean liner, the Stockholm, rammed an Italian liner, the Andrea Doria, and sunk it. Ironically, I was in Stockholm when it occurred, a few days before boarding the RMS Carinthia, a ship similar to the Andrea Doria, for the voyage home.
February 3, 1959 – I was a senior in high school, sitting in study hall. Over the intercom came word that Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens had died in a plane crash. Heads went down onto the school desks, and some students started to sob.
August 5, 1962 – I was doing the sign-on shift that day on KSTT. My first duty, before going on the air, was to “rip the wire,” that is pull long streams of paper off the Associated Press teletype. A story caught my eye. I stared at it, stunned to see that Marilyn Monroe had died. It felt strange, knowing people would be waking up to this news. And I would be telling them.
August 16, 1977 – I was now Program Director of WISM in Madison. News director, Wayne Wallace, came in my office almost in tears. He was a huge Elvis fan. The King was dead.
December 8, 1980 – It was my mother’s birthday. I was thinking of her as I watched television at my home on Lake Waubesa in Madison. A bulletin came on telling us John Lennon had been shot. No! What lunatic would do such a thing?
March 30, 1981 – Barely four months later, on my birthday. Another bulletin. Someone had shot, and injured, President Ronald Reagan.
January 28, 1986 – News Director Wayne Wallace, in my office again, “The Challenger blew up.” The world had watched in shock as it exploded shortly after take-off killing seven astronauts on board.
August 31, 1997 – I had been on a road trip to a riverboat casino in Dubuque with friends. Upon returning to Madison, decided to stop for a night-cap. The bar was crowded, but the mood was somber. Everyone was staring at a small television set mounted high in a corner above the pool tables. Princess Diana had been killed in a car crash.
November 13, 2015 – Paris is attacked by terrorists. The world is angered by the satanic stupidity of it all. Strangely, I heard about it first on Facebook, reading a nervous comment by a friend, who happened to be in Paris for the weekend. He was letting folks know he and his wife were okay.
We can only wonder what might be next.